Mercer Island resident and former NBA great Bill Russell issued an apology yesterday for his detention last week at Sea-Tac International Airport with a loaded handgun in his carry-on bag; a story that took local news agencies nearly 48 hours to report.
It hasn’t taken that long for the local press to join the launch of what appears to be the first hints of exploitation of the Newtown tragedy. A report in today’s Seattle Times, picked up from a Hartford newspaper, covers previously unreleased details of the Sandy Hook shooting that readers are wondering why anyone needs to know. That it has taken ten months for these details to emerge might be a more interesting story. Why did authorities wait so long? It was not as if there was going to be a trial.
Russell’s detention at Sea-Tac has nothing to do with the Sandy Hook tragedy. The timing of news is an unfortunate coincidence, but the events are completely unrelated.
Today, according to various reports, demolition is supposed to begin on the elementary school building in Connecticut, which will be gone by the Dec. 14 anniversary of the shooting. A new school will be built on the present site, and opened by 2015.
Between now and the solemn anniversary, gun rights advocates including Bellevue’s Alan Gottlieb at the Second Amendment Foundation anticipate gun prohibitionists will exploit the shooting to push their political agenda. His launch of a Guns Save Lives Day effort ten days ago resulted in a nasty backlash from some people, as noted by this column.
Meanwhile, the Russell incident is not likely to be exploited at all. The 79-year-old Russell reportedly had a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver in his carry-on. In his weekend apology, he said he forgot the handgun was in his bag, which has happened to other people in the past, all over the country. The gun was confiscated, and Russell could face a hefty fine.
According to ESPN, Russell noted in his statement that the firearm was legal. Nobody had suggested otherwise, and it is not unusual for an Evergreen State resident – especially a high-profile one – to own a handgun. Russell offered an apology and said he “truly regret(s) the mistake.”
Had this lapse involved some local gun rights leader instead of a local sports icon, it is almost guaranteed that the incident would be exploited, even though nobody was harmed.
But with the Sandy Hook anniversary looming and destruction of the school building getting underway this week, the gun prohibition lobby has a much larger target of opportunity. For the next two months, Examiner readers should keep track of stories related to Sandy Hook. There likely will be a bunch of them, while Mr. Russell's oversight will properly fade far into the background.
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